It Happened On Epiphany
Here’s a fact about the MAGA mob’s desecration of the Capitol that didn’t make headlines: It happened on Epiphany.
The Greek word means reveal or show. It’s the day the Church remembers the coming of the Magi as the revelation of Christ to the Gentile world. On the first Sunday after Epiphany we celebrate the baptism of Jesus and hear the call, “Remember your baptism and be grateful.”
So, what did the Epiphany insurrection reveal or show about us? How was it a revelation of who are as a nation and who we hope to become?
This Isn’t Us!
One response is to say, “This isn’t who we are!” And there’s truth in that.
David Brooks described the awe and reverence he felt the first time he walked into the Capitol and experienced “the glory of the place.” Decades later and after walking its halls thousands of times, Brooks said, “The awe and reverence have never diminished an iota.”
The Capitol, with all its symbolism, grandeur, and complicated history bears architectural witness to our highest values and noblest ideals, even when we fail to live up to them. It represents the best of who we have been and who we might yet become.
The rioters who swaggered through the Rotunda replaced reverence for the Capitol and respect for our democracy with self-absorbed arrogance ginned up by a sinister network of groundless conspiracy theories and directly inspired by the relentless dishonesty of the President and his enablers.
I want to believe that Brooks’ attitude would resonate with most of our people. It matters that Donald Trump never received a majority vote of the American people. With all of the imperfections in our history, the Capitol is the place where we continue to attempt “to form a perfect union.” What the world saw on Epiphany isn’t who we are. But at the same time…
This Is Us!
The Epiphany insurrection revealed again the dark underbelly of who we have been and still are. Brooks wrote:
“There are dark specters running through our nation — beasts with shaggy manes and feral teeth. They have the stench of Know-Nothingism, the hot blood of the lynchers, and they ride the winds of nihilistic fury.“
He sounded like an Old Testament prophet when he declared:
“Human beings exist at moral dimensions both too lofty and more savage than the contemporary American mind normally considers. The mob that invaded that building Wednesday exposed the abyss. This week wasn’t just an atrocity, it was a glimpse into an atavistic nativism that always threatens to grip the American soul.
We will never face the truth until we see what happened in the Capitol as the extreme expression of the sins that have infected our history and continue to lurk in the dark corners of our souls, specifically our “original sin” of racism, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy. The images of the mob clearly reveal that when they shouted about taking back “our country,” the pronoun only referred to white people, men in particular.
Trump did not create this movement, but there is a direct line from his support for “birtherism” and the violent rhetoric in his rallies, through Charlottesville, to the Capitol grounds on Epiphany. He has unleashed the darkest symptoms of the virus in our nation’s bloodstream. Removing Trump from the White House will be easier than removing the stain of Trumpism from our life together and restoring a commitment to democracy and the common good.
All of which, in the providence of God, brings us back to Epiphany and baptism.
Remember Your Baptism
While the MAGA mob was marching toward the Capitol, the Greek Orthodox folks in Tarpon Springs were processing to Spring Bayou where 54 sixteen-year-old boys dove into the 63-degree water to retrieve a white cross. It’s a 115-year tradition that celebrates the baptism of Jesus.
So, what does the Epiphany insurrection have to do with baptism?
Mark declares that “the beginning of the good news” is the ruthless honesty with which John the Baptist calls us to “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:1-8) The Common English Bible reads: “…to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.” That’s why the liturgy for the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows begins with the questions:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world,
and repent of your sin?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves?
As followers of Christ, our response to the MAGA insurrection will reveal just how seriously we renounce and reject the sinful part of who we are and how fully we accept the freedom and power to change our hearts, lives, and behaviors in order to become the people we hope to be. The invitation is always before us: “Come on in. The Water is fine.”
May the love, freedom, power and justice of God be revealed in our lives during these days of Epiphany.
Grace and peace,